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United Haulers Ass'n v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Auth.

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20097
Nos. No. 05-1345, (U.S., 04/30/2007)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that two flow-control ordinances requiring delivery of local solid waste to a publicly owned processing facility do not discriminate against interstate commerce in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The ordinances at issue treat in-state private business interests exactly the same as out-of-state ones.  The Court concluded that compelling reasons justify treating these laws differently from laws favoring particular private businesses over their competitors.  The ordinances enable the counties to pursue particular policies with respect to waste handling and treatment, while allocating the costs of those policies on citizens and businesses according to the volume of waste they generate. The contrary approach of treating public and private entities the same under the dormant Commerce Clause would lead to unprecedented and unbounded interference by the courts with state and local government. In addition, waste disposal is typically and traditionally a function of local government exercising its police power.  And while the Court’s dormant U.S. Commerce Clause cases often find discrimination when the burden of state regulation falls on interests outside the state, the most palpable harm imposed by the ordinances at issue—more expensive trash removal—will likely fall upon the very people who voted for the laws, the counties’ citizens.  Roberts, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II–D. Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined that opinion in full. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring as to Parts I and II-A through II-C. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens and Kennedy, JJ., joined.

[Prior decisions in this litigation can be found at 31 ELR 20873 and 36 ELR 20041.]